Friday, September 30, 2011

Keep up the voting!

Thanks so much for all the support so far. We are currently in 3rd place, with plenty of time left to go in the voting. Please take a second to vote if you haven't already, just follow this link and cast a vote for Manna Project International under the Youth Developer category.

This is real money that will make a huge difference to the communities we serve in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Ecuador.

Please help us spread the word by sharing the link with your friends on facebook and asking coworkers and family members to cast a vote.

We will continue to provide updates on the progress of the competition, thanks so much for your continued support!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Help us win a MILLION dollars!!!!

Manna Project has been invited to participate in the Case Community American Giving Awards for a chance to win a MILLION dollars! This is an incredible opportunity for us and we could really use the funding. The contest is simple; it all comes down to Facebook voting. For the first round we are competing against just four other organizations in the youth development category. We have one week to beat out the other four and move onto the second round. If we advance to the second round we automatically win $125,000 and we have the chance at a million!

We won before, we can do it again! In 2009 when Chase first started their Community Giving Awards MPI won $25,000 so we know it is possible, we just need your help!

Voting lasts just one week, from September 28th- October 5th.

Just follow this link it only takes a few seconds and could help us make a real difference in the communities we work in.

You will be prompted to “like” Chase Community Giving and then have the chance to vote for Manna Project under the Youth Developer category.

Help us even more by posting this link as your status on Facebook and Twitter so we can reach out to as many people as possible.

We will keep you updated throughout the voting process, thanks for all the support!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happy Birthday Vinicio!

Celebrating Vinicio's birthday at the Manna House
Birthday boy and his brother enjoying the cake

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Stepping it up in Women’s Exercise

All five of us female PD’s came into this year excited about the Women’s Exercise program. We all came from a background in various types of group exercise and athletics, and were eager to put our personal touches on the classes that Manna offers. It was a little disappointing at first to see the low levels of attendance in our first classes, but it motivated us to get advertising, fine-tune our classes, and start talking to the women in the community to find out what they wanted from a work-out class. We learned quickly that the women want to dance, and they are concerned about their abs, so we have been creatively incorporating both into all of our classes.

A heartwarming moment for me was when Dayana, a 10 year old who attended our summer camp and frequents the library, asked if she could come to women’s exercise because yoga helps her relieve stress. I personally started taking aerobic kickboxing classes with my mom and sister when I was her age, and by far the youngest woman in the class. It was awesome to see her proudly take her place in the front of the room as she bravely tested out each of the classes that her busy schedule allows.

The newest and biggest change we will be implementing this year is a step aerobic class, to be taught by Emily on Friday mornings. The women were very excited about the idea, so all we needed were the steps. After walking to the gym down the street to check out models, watching various Youtube videos on how to make steps, and pricing wood at a nearby hardware store, we were ready to get started. The process didn’t turn out to be all that hard, and we managed to make the first 6 steps for free! We used wood and nails we found around the house, got the wood cut for free by some nice gentleman down the street, and had the steps transported to the Centro by our favorite vecino, Ceasar.

The next step for the program, and something we are all anxious for, will be mounting mirrors on the wall of the exercise room. The room occupies a large open space on the top floor of our Centro, with racks of exercise balls and floor mats, and windows overlooking the mountains. It is a fantastic space and perfect for giving classes, but it lacks mirrors, which are fundamental for checking form and accurately following routines. We are currently working hard contacting gyms and athletic stores in the U.S. trying to get money donated so we can have mirrors installed. In the meantime we’ll continue working to improve our workout classes and get more community members interested in their personal health and fitness.

Building steps
The finished product
Testing it out

Friday, September 9, 2011

Dinner at Jenni's

This week's guest blog comes from Nicole, who reflects on a recent visit to a community member's home for dinner:

All of us here in Ecuador are quickly learning that nothing is ever going to be quite
as it seems, exactly as you plan, or as any preconceived ideas predict. Sometimes
this unpredictability turns out to be something awesome, and sometimes not
so awesome (stay tuned for an example of the former), but it’s teaching all of us
patience. And to just go with the flow.

This past Sunday we were all asked to dinner by Jenni, a lady whose family attends
classes at our Centro. Everyone was really up for going, but given the fact that it
was our day “off” and we also wanted and needed some down time, we hoped and
planned on going for 2 hours, no más. We left our house a little after 4 to meet them
in Amaguaña and take a camioñeta (new favorite form of transportation) to their
house where we met the family, dogs, ducks, and guinea pigs that may or may not
have been the ones they ate for dinner later.

The visit then really kicked off with what turned out to be a two and a half hour
walk around Amaguaña – one of the prettiest suburbs of Quito I’ve seen so far.
We spent the evening meeting even more extended family as we traipsed through
their farms and gardens, drank fresh spring water, took lots of pictures, and spoke
lots of Spanish. By the end of our impromptu tour, we were all convinced that
the Manna house should relocate to Amaguaña (still working on the logistics of
this!). My favorite part of the evening was meeting Jenni’s grandmother and 100-
year old grandfather – both very Quechua. They were so welcoming to a large
group of Gringos taking over their kitchen and spoke to us in Quechua, which I had
never heard before save for a few words and phrases that have been passed down
into modern Ecuadorian Spanish. Being able to walk around the town with local
residents and hear stories about the history of Amaguaña, who the people are, and
how things have changed, among other stories, definitely made this tour the best of
any I’ve been on so far.

We returned to the house and finally sat down to dinner at 7. In no time, our “2 hour
visit” turned into a 5-hour experience, but, despite any amount of yawns, one that
none of us would have traded for a little r&r.

Guinea pig... its what's for dinner

Monday, September 5, 2011

Corn and Tourism

Now those are two things worth celebrating. These past two weeks have been a big deal for Sangolqui and the surrounding towns in the valley as they have been holding various events to celebrate their annual festival of Maíz y Turismo. We Program Directors have had the opportunity to collaborate with the Ecuadorian Red Cross during some of these events. We are lucky enough to live right next to the Monumento de Rumiñahui, a large statue of the famous Incan warrior for which our district is named. The festival’s parade route ended right in front of the monument, and a majority of the festival’s events happened just a short walk away from the Manna house.

Last Saturday’s parade was a bigger event than any of us had expected, with roads closed off all around the monument and thousands of people crowding the streets (this made getting to the Centro a difficult task). During the event, I had the pleasure of volunteering in the Red Cross tent where I was taught how to give an IV… and then given the opportunity to practice on a fellow volunteer. Luckily for everyone involved, I was never called upon to use my newfound skill. The parade lasted hours, with a continuous flow of musicians, indigenous dancers, Sangolqui beauty queens, and small children dressed like corn. Since people from all over the district showed up for the parade, we had an awesome opportunity to mingle with community members and spread the word about Manna Project.

This weekend’s Corrida de Toros (bullfight) was another story altogether. Traditional bullfights in Spain involve trained Matadors and skilled horsemen collaborating to kill a bull. There is a lot of controversy over the sport, and in some parts of the world it is prohibited to kill the bull in front of the crowd. Sangolqui’s toros give the bulls a chance to fight back. A few days before the Corrida a makeshift ring and stands are constructed out of wood and… what appears to be socks, to hold the bull, the participants, and hundreds of spectators. Unarmed, untrained Ecuadorian men (and once in a great while women) enter the ring with the bull to try their hand as amateur bullfighters, or just for the thrill of being close to such a powerful animal. Participants antagonize the bull and then run terrified for the stands when the bull starts to chase them. Props to our very own Nicole Hamilton and our friend Evo Vaca for being the only mujeres to enter the ring this year. Although it is very entertaining to watch, people do get badly injured during the festival. Needless to say, volunteering with the Red Cross this weekend was a very different experience than helping out during the parade. Our future health care professional Emily was thrilled at the chance to help the injured toreros, and has spent the last three days helping out in the tent. I on the other hand saw enough the first day and have officially retired as a Red Cross volunteer.

Nicole and I volunteering in the Red Cross tent

Some very happy corn
View of the backside of the stands for the bulls

Los toros de Sangolqui